Friday, 3 August 2012

Putting Past Behaviour Into Perspective: Keys to Successful Selection

Everyone who teaches behavioural interviewing is quick to note that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

But are you the same person now that you were in high school or even college?

We all evolve. Hopefully, we all learn from the past. Optimistically, we may be able to avoid repeating the same old mistakes as we get older. Who knows? Maybe we can even retain lessons of past successes and carry those secrets with us into the future, so that we get better and better over time.

So does the adage about past behaviour predicting the future really hold true?

What gives the adage some heft is the notion of a time frame.

How recently did I demonstrate a particular behaviour?

Want more heft? Throw in the notion of frequency.

Anyone can demonstrate a behaviour (desired or otherwise) once, but do we do it more often than that? Do we do it all the time?

In other words, the adage should be amended: Past behaviour, demonstrated recently and with frequency, is the best predictor of future behaviour.

Let’s say you have two job candidates. Both have demonstrated the important behaviours you’re looking for. The one who has done it more recently and more frequently is more likely to so on the job. If that person has demonstrated those behaviours in a number of different situations, even better.

Scoring on behavioural interviews has to reflect all three components: Behaviour, recency, and frequency. This will allow you to differentiate between candidates you’d like to think have the right stuff, and those that actually do. 


  1. Great food for thought here David - indeed recency and frequency are vital.

  2. Sarah Caravalho Khan6 August 2012 at 11:57

    I would add that this also applies to performance problems with employees - very important to keep perspective when counseling (or determining whether to even do so).

    1. Thank you both for the comments. Sarah I would agree that this would also apply to performance issues. With performance issues you have another problem. You can't assume that just because they changed the behaviour once, recently, that will change for the long run. You have to see how the person acts in multiple situations once the behaviour has changed. Too often managers accept once and done.

  3. So here is a thought provoking statement for you. Yes, people change from the person they were and evolve over time with new experiences and yes, past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour. The latter can actually become a real millstone for people when, through further training and opportunities for them to be able to "see themselves" and change behaviour - more in line with company expectations - why do you think it is that, when presented with enlightment about how better life could be for you and those around you by changing behaviour, that people regress back to their past behaviours over time? I guess what I am getting at - people do evolve though some really struggle with sustaining evolution that will actually benefit them. It's like they forget what a better person they could be and choose the path that disengages those around them.


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